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Journal of chromatography. A

Development of a rapid liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method for screening of trace naphthenic acids in aqueous environments.


PMID 23336941

Abstract

Over the past 20 years, oil sands exploration and processing in Canada have grown steadily, leading to the development of intensive large-scale operations in Alberta, Canada. Naphthenic acids (NAs), a complex mixture of aliphatic and alicyclic carboxylic acids, are by-products of oil sands processing and are known to be toxic. While oil sands processing water (OSPW) is contained in tailings ponds, potential seepage and leaking of OSPW and its contaminants into surrounding surface water systems is a concern. The ability to quantify NAs and their isomers in OSPW surrounding water is essential for monitoring these spills. Unfortunately, quantification of NAs and their isomers is challenging due to the complexity of the NA mixtures, the lack of commercially available standards, and interference from naturally occurring NA compounds. Techniques such as FT-IR and GC/MS are currently used to analyse NAs, but are limited by poor sensitivity and specificity in the case of FT-IR and long sample preparation and instrument run time for GC/MS. To tackle these issues, a rapid LC/MS method was developed which can quickly quantify NAs in surface water with much better sensitivity and specificity than current methods. This method uses large volume injection, ESI negative mode and a Poroshell LC column to improve the method limits of detection (LOD) and quantitation (LOQ). The method is robust and has no complicated sample preparation steps. The method detection limit (MDL) is 0.01 mg/L (10 ppb) and low limit of quantitation (LLOQ) of 0.1mg/L (100 ppb), both for surface water. The developed method was tested with samples from the oil sands producing region, and demonstrated its applicability for fast screening of surface water samples before resorting to costly high accuracy and high resolution mass spectrometry determination. This is the first very rapid LC/MS method using large volume single column direct injection for quantitative determination of naphthenic acids in surface water.

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70340 Naphthenic acid, technical